Article in brief: the author talks about how her experience with boxing helped her reconnect with herself, and focus on what matters again.
Not sure exactly how I ended up finding myself breathless, dripping in sweat with the entire stellar galaxy swirling in my vision and surrounded by four corners of a boxing ring.
Three months ago had you told me I’d learn to jab or let alone run like a decent human being I would have cried laughing. No, never would I have believed it possible to ever be sitting here writing about boxing with bruised knuckles. But that’s precisely what this article is about.
Let’s face it, boxing is a violent sport, and for someone who has managed to dance throughout her life as a method of exercise, this sport is quite the drastic change.
The past year and a half, I have had quite a challenging time where I pushed my mind into overload, with an overflow of worries, a blurred vision of the future and hardly any sense of a direction. If asked, the hardest part was letting go and making decisions with fingers crossed, hoping that they were the right ones. The responsibility was enormous and only I could make those decisions.
With all that, I found my preoccupied mind drifting me away from the present. What was the impact of all this on my body? It was not just about neglecting my body, but the fact that I was disconnecting my mind from my body. I found it hard looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t relate to it. I tried to coordinate my movements with my mind but I was equally off balance mentally and physically. That’s when I knew I was broken.
Years ago, on an afternoon I spent photographing at the Heritage Village, an old man struck up a conversation with me. He told me he was a poet and proudly gave me copies of some poems. We spoke of many things, until he came to a halt and decided to share his secret on how one could fight sadness. He told me how today we go to psychiatrists to mend broken hearts and solve our problems with pills. In his simpler days, there was none of that and even less cases of depression. He told me the story of a young man whose heart ached. An old wise woman from the village was consulted on his matter and she recommended that he collects a pile of wood and spend a few hours chopping them every night before bed. Night after night until he was cured of his depression. The old man then turned to me and asked, did I know how he was cured? I shook my head. He said: “The body needs to tire itself in order to let the heart rest.”
I only learnt the meaning of this story three months ago. Boxing brought me back into the moment to focus. I had no room to think and my mind was silenced. Through boxing I reconnected my mind and body to coordinate together. I pushed my body beyond what I thought I could do. I gained confidence that I had somehow lost, and through it, I gained the courage to know that every time I think I can’t, I tell myself otherwise.
I learnt to run like a decent runner, skip rope and jump, as my coach likes to say, “jump like a man”. I know these may seem like small milestones, but for someone who thought it would be impossible, I actually did manage to make it possible.
This article is not about anger and taking out all the pain on the punching bag. It’s about knowing that every limit you set for yourself you are capable of break it. That every time you fall, lose hope or lose yourself, you can get right back up and fight for yourself. No one can fight your battles and don’t let your mind control you. Be present in mind, body and soul. KO.
Al Shamsi’s recently published book Alayah by Sail Publishinghas been awarded the support from Dubai Culture part of their printing and publishing movement “Reading in Arabic Challenge”.